Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters

Updated: Feb 10

Chapter 9: Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising: From Peaceful Protest to Sectarian Civil War

Raymond Hinnebusch

Omar Imady

Tina Zintl


This chapter examines civil resistance in the Syrian Uprising, looking both at its consequences for the power struggle and its long-term likely effect on citizen participation in Syria. Non-violent resistance as a form of mass power can force an end to authoritarian governance provided that—as the transition paradigm from democratization studies argues—moderates on both regime and opposition sides marginalize hardliners. However, in Syria hardliners remained dominant, and new, fundamentalist hardliners such as Islamic State entered the scene. Thus transition failed, with the outcome being authoritarian resilience, violent revolution, and collapse into civil war. This chapter offers explanations of why mass mobilization took place and why it led to escalating conflict, detailing the sectarian violence and the domestic and international factors that led to descent into civil war. Yet peaceful civil resistance also precipitated a rise in associational activity that may have positive consequences in the long run.

Copyright 2020